adventures in cooking

Adventures in Cooking: Part 5

After reading everything that I have written previously you may be thinking that everyone I worked with in the kitchen was an asshole. Well, you would be wrong. There were a few good souls that had been there when they shouldn’t have been. While the rest of us were running amuck these people kept the place sane and oiled the gears while the chaos and anarchy tried to tear everything apart.
Nick was a short thirty something guy, heavy set but in a jolly kind of way. He wasn’t much for talking but that could have been because all of his interest were far from what was on the minds of the bat shit crazy loons running around the place. We worked a few shifts together and one night we ended up at the Ruby Tuesday across from our restaurant at the mall. They served drinks late and stayed open when the rest of the mall was closed.
That night was the deep clean, when the mats were picked up from the floor, degreaser was sprayed down, old chicken strips were found under the cabinets, appliances were pulled out, and the ungodly things hidden behind them were taken care of by an old priest and a young priest. I remember hauling the buckets of oil and grease to the dumpster and thinking I would find a creature like in the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Some of human shape hissing and trying to pull me inside to drown in the goo. That didn’t happen but the group of kids smoking weed by the dumpsters wasn’t any better, giving me an evil eye as I hauled the stinky goop to the dumpster. They eventually moved on and left me to the gross task of waiting for the buckets to empty into the pit.
The floors in the kitchen turned into an ice rink once the rubber mats were lifted. The mats themselves were taken outside and hosed off while the floors were mopped, pushing the grease around but not really removing it. The swirling shapes bubbled up the water and some people tried to write in the waxy substance. Others grabbed the counter and pushed off to see how far they could slide before stopping. In the end, the waste of time caught up with us and we were fighting amongst ourselves in order to leave and finally have a drink. Time was a wasting.
Once all the floor were cleaned and the grease was taken care of, the doors were locked and we were gone. Nick and I went to Ruby Tuesday and sat at the bar. I had never been there before thinking of it as an uppity place that likely served mediocre food at high prices. To this day I know I went there a few times but I can’t remember eating anything or what kind of food they had. Except for this night, the place was unremarkable.
The special of the night was the Long Island Ice Tea and Nick drank several of them, sucking them down like a man that had found a well after three days in the desert. I have never tried the long Island and after that night I never planned on it. I sat there drinking some kind of beer my current self would slap my younger self for drinking, but I didn’t know any better.
Once two hours had passed and Nick drank three long Islands, we decided to leave. Nick had to be at work in the morning to open and I wanted to go home and crawl into bed. Out in the parking lot I found my car, a white Grand Am from the 80s and Nick found his red Buick. There were a few other cars in the lot, scattered around and hard to see in the dimly lit lot. Nick was trashed and I asked him if he needed a ride home.
“No, I’m fine. If I can’t drive, I’ll sleep in the back and go to work in the morning.”
Nick appeared to be having trouble getting his key in the door and the damn thing wouldn’t open. He started to freak out and knew that the lock had trouble if it was cold outside, but the forty degree weather shouldn’t be bad enough to cause the locks to freeze on him. He ran inside the building and called a tow truck to help with the lock. We stood there in the parking lot waiting like a couple of idiots and a few minutes later the tow truck came. The man emerged with a slim jim and started to work on the door. Even he was having trouble.
Curious I looked inside the car and started to laugh.
“I never too you as the kind of guy to have a pink fuzzy steering wheel cover,” I said pointing inside the car.
“What?” Nick started to run towards the car and yelled for the tow truck guy to stop. At that moment the lock on the door clicked open and the dude stood there, cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
“You’re paying me for that. I just committed a felony because you told me the wrong car.”
With his head bobbing in agreement, Nick handed the man his money and we went two aisles over to find his car. The key worked the first time and Nick crawled into the back seat to take a nap.
I went home and ordered a pizza. Fox’s pizza was still in business back then and had a barbeque chicken pizza that I have not found a replacement for since. I was living alone and didn’t have much in the apartment. There was the couch. The television sat on top of the entertainment center with the VCR attached underneath. The stereo sat next to it which I was more inclined to listen to. I didn’t have cable television and didn’t want it. I sat on the couch as some music played and there was a knock at the door.
I found a girl standing in the doorway holding the pizza. She had brown hair, a visor for part of her uniform, a polo shirt and jeans. She was pretty with big brown eyes and about my age. I was expecting the nerdy, angry at the world, zit faced, pizza guy that would bitch about the tip regardless of how much you gave him, then there was her. I paid in cash and a few dollars for the tip. The whole time it was awkward like we wanted to say something but neither of us did. As she placed her money in her pocket, she looked through the door and saw the apartment, clean, simple, and likely not the shit holes she was used to seeing.
“You have a nice place.”
I was caught off guard and stumbled through the “Oh, ya, um, thank you.” She smiled at me and I smiled back but didn’t have anything else to say. I closed the door and she drove away.
There was one other guy that stuck out like a sore thumb at Olga’s. A young kid, sixteen or so that if you paid attention for more than five seconds, you could see that there was something going on at home. He was a big guy, maybe five foot ten and two hundred and fifty pounds and his hair was always messy. There was an attitude sometimes but it was usually giving shit back to people who treated him bad. As the new dish bitch people gave the kid shit for any reason they could come up with. The more he fought back the more they came up with reasons. It must have been hell.
He stayed in the back listening to his Eminem CD, the one with him wearing an apron on the cover much like the dish washer wore. Meagan would give him crap about the language in the music. I didn’t understand the music myself but to me that was part of the freedom of being the dishwasher, nobody else works back there, leave him alone.
There came a night when the kid didn’t have a ride home. His home was a few miles away and it was looking like he would have to walk for an hour or so, in the cold, to get home. Nate Dawg refused, not liking the kid, probably because he reminded him of himself at that age. None of the waitresses gave rides because they were paying for babysitters or going out for drinks afterwards. As the kid started to realize he was in for a long walk I told him that I could take him.
“That kid is a fucking asshole,” Nate Dawg said.
“So, why do you care if I give him a ride.”
For some reason Nate was trying to get me to change my mind. At the end of the shift we left in my car and the kid was quiet. “Thanks for the ride. I really appreciate it.”
“Hey kid, I don’t know what’s happening at home but I know that life sucks right now and you’ll be out soon. Once you can make your own choices it gets better.”
“Is it that obvious?”
“ya, it kind of is.”
I pulled up to the kid’s house and it was a dump. It reminded me of Nate Dawg’s place or any of the other shit holes I had seen over the years. The kid thanked me again and went inside.
I only saw him a few times after that and I don’t know whatever happened to him. I hope that whatever he was going through that he found a way past it and that life turned out well for him. Hell, there are times that anything besides what you are currently going through is better. I hope he found a place to heal.
To be Continued…